The Roots of ‘Folk Horror’


There has been much wonderment about the phrase ‘folk horror’. Whilst many thought that it had originated in 2010 with Mark Gatiss and Jonathan Rigby in the television documentary ‘A History of Horror’ in relation to the three British films now frequently collectively referred to as The Unholy Trinity. Those movies being Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan’s Claw and The Wicker Man.
It was with reference to one of those films that an earlier use of the term folk horror was used. Talking about his own film, the aforementioned wonderful film Blood on Satan’s Claw, director Piers Haggard  used the term ‘folk horror’ to describe it in a 2003 interview in Fangoria magazine.
Recently though on the social site Twitter a couple of users have discovered earlier use of the name.

Firstly author Johnny Mains discovered two uses from either side of the Atlantic decades earlier.

In 1982 in America, Laura Stewart refers to illustrator Beverly Brodsky’s work as “folk horror” specifically her work for The Golem.

DJI8tbfXcAEBlKf.jpg large

In 1975 the British press, namely The Guardian (who years later published Robert McFarlane’s excellent essay on the English Eerie ) made use of the description in
Caroline Tisdall’s review of an exhibition by the phantastic romantic painter Henri Fuseli at the Tate Gallery. DJIvww8XoAA4kXl.jpg large

However another author Sarah K. Marr  discovered a far earlier use of the term.
The English Journal referred to superstition and ‘folk horror’ in their pages in 1936.
DJJweVhW4AAQmLv.jpg large

So is this the first conjunction of the words folk + horror or there earlier usages left to discover???
If you know of any earlier use or any interesting references to it from the 20th Century and before, please let us know in the comments section below.


An illustration from De Materia Medica by the Greek physician Dioscorides (1460)


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